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Metroid: Other M Hands-on Impressions

Metroid: Other M is an interesting test in game design. The title uses only the Wii Remote, held sideways like a NES controller, to control Samus in third-person. This is mixed with a first-person aiming mechanic using the Remote's infrared sensor.

As such, the level design is largely presented as 2D, despite being a 3D space. There is a large amount of auto-aim, putting the focus on dodging and firing back at enemies. Ninja Gaiden series veteran Team Ninja, co-developing the title with Nintendo, is the driving force behind the combat. Players will be able to dodge attacks as well as initiate flashy cinematic finishing moves on certain enemies.

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I was able to play roughly 30 minutes of Other M today beginning with the first level. The intro cinematic recreates the ending of Super Metroid, after which Samus finds herself in a space station recuperating. Following a quick tutorial, Samus leaves and simply wanders space for weeks. Eventually, our heroine receives a distress call coded as a "baby's cry" call. Having just lost the baby Metroid, Samus is compelled to investigate.

Director Yoshio Sakamoto definitely wants to tell a movie-like story with Other M, and as such, there are a lot of cutscenes. Arriving at a derelict ship--the source of the distress call--Samus quickly runs into some soldiers, including the old commanding officer from her army days. Series fans will recognize him as Metroid Fusion's Adam Malkovich.

Samus helps them open a door with a well-placed missile and it's off to explore the ship. Enemies are numerous and the auto-aiming Samus makes short work of them.

The controls work well, but moving around in a 3D space with auto-aim is a bit awkward. I kept trying to fire at enemies while retreating backwards; a symptom of playing games with lock-on mechanics since the days of Nintendo 64, I suppose. Despite this, I found that the auto-aim mechanic worked well enough after some practice.

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Pretty soon, it's time to fight a boss: a tentacled creature formed from thousands of bugs working in unison. Working with Malkovich and the soldiers, I must switch to first-person (making Samus stationary) and fire missiles at different weak points. It's a bit jarring to switch during the fast-paced combat, but again, isn't that difficult after some practice.

Soon ehough, the boss dies and the demo ends.

As I said upfront, Metroid: Other M is an interesting test. Sakamoto and Team Ninja are merging simplistic NES-era controls with infrared aiming mechanics in a fast-paced game. Using a directional pad to move in 3D space is odd at first, but works along with the map design. The combat is fast and fun and the cinematics are compelling. I look forward to more from Metroid: Other M and its eventual release on June 27, 2010.